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SBTi releases first Forest, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) guidance

© Shutterstock / Miha CreativeA hand holds a green globe that has a tree growing on top of it.

The Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) has produced the world’s first forest, land and agriculture (FLAG) guidance on achieving science-based targets, addressing a critical gap that has limited disclosures on land impacts and remediation efforts.

  • The Forest, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) guidance sets near-term and long-term science-based targets pertaining to the sector.
  • 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land use.
  • As more focus lands on biodiversity loss, disclosures will be welcome on emission reduction resulting from tree loss and soil degradation complemented by plans to reverse this.

A number of companies with high land impacts have committed to SBTi targets but the lack of guidance has limited disclosures. This guidance puts forward measures that companies need to be taking to restore carbon sink mediums such as trees and soil.

Key points of the SBTi FLAG guidance

  1. Set 5-10 year emission reduction targets in line with limiting warming to 1.5°C
  2. Account for GHG removals in near-term targets. This relates to forestry and soil
  3. Set long-term FLAG science-based targets: These must fulfill 74% emission reduction targets in the forest, land and agriculture sectors
  4. Stopping deforestation by no later than 2025
  5. Set science-based targets for fossil emissions

Management of forests, land and agriculture can give rise to carbon emissions or carbon abatement and companies need to make both emission reductions and enhance carbon sinks.

SBTi recommends climate mitigation activities appropriate for companies within the forestry and agriculture supply chains concerning land conversion, peat burning, manure, enteric methane, fertiliser, rice cultivation, on-farm equipment, consumption of animal-based protein, and food loss or waste. Carbon removal activities include conservation set-asides, agroforestry, silvopasture and biochar. 

The Race to Zero issued a stark warning in September 2022 about the urgent need to transform the food and agriculture system as it is riddled with practices that render it the single largest contributor to the ecological and climate crises.

The SBTi, in line with other influential bodies, says that 80% of the mitigation potential from land use change is from stopping deforestation. 

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